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Review: Isle Of Wight Festival (Sunday Night)

After a spectacular Saturday night, Isle Of Wight draws to a close facing stiff competition. The mutual threat of a night spent stuck in a muddy car park and the prospect of watching England advance to the Semi-Finals of the Euros (ha) have driven off a reasonable chunk of crowd. Still, compared to year’s past, a healthy throng remains firmly in place for a final day of blazing sunshine, and guitar rock.

Band Of Skulls are remarkably professional as they create the illusion of a loose psychedelic blues band. They go over well with the islanders, but as they’re set wears on, they struggle to assert their relevance. Originality is non-existent, and the thrills slowly dry up as each concise jam bleeds into the next. Still they never lose an appreciative crowd, who are happy to work on their tans and stomp their feet to some crunching chords. [2.5/5.0]

I fear for John Giddings’ children. James Walsh of Starsailor must be holding them hostage, as he continues to play the festival each and every year. In 2012 he draws a big(ish) crowd to the Garden Stage. He gets his followers swaying gently without taking any risks or threatening the slightest progression. The set comes and goes in somewhat pleasant but ultimately laborious fashion. [2.0/5.0] 

Over on the Main Stage The Vaccines arrive to the chimes of new single “No Hope”. Justin Young’s melodies are full of wry charm and squandered romance as they effortlessly drift across the now muddy field. Unfortunately, if Young’s voice offers a glimpse of grand future, that sense of hope and excitement is washed away by the limp sound of clanging guitars and thudding drums. It’s sloppy, and not endearingly so.

On “Wetsuit” and “Post-Break Up” Young’s swooning vocal crams 50,000 festivalgoers inside a scruffy and intimate indie show, while simultaneously his band mates sound lost on a stage this grand. “Wreckin’ Ball (Ra Ra Ra)” is equally ineffectually, too roughshod and insular for a wide-open festival field.

The Vaccines are still stumbling around in the dark, attempting to make the transition from sweaty academies to cavernous arenas and billowing fields. Whether they’ll rise to the challenge remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, “If You Wanna” and “Norgaard” can get even the deepest of crowds swaying as one. [3.0/5.0]

This time last year Beady Eye were giving a an embarrassing, and frankly selfish, performance that fell flat in front of tiny, and thoroughly soaked crowd. Tonight, Noel Gallagher is met glorious sunshine and the day’s biggest audience. He doesn’t disappoint. The High Flying Birds dutifully blow through a series of pleasing blues jams, each more derivative than the last. Still, they’re enough to get the crowd shuffling, and when his sound comes together for “The Death Of You And Me” and “AKA…What A Life!” he proves capable of inciting sing-alongs without falling back upon the Oasis staples.

When the classics do emerge they’re greeted like old friends. The shrewdly selected “Half The World Away” provides the kind of touching understated moment that plays perfectly into Noel’s down to earth everyman image. “Little By Little” suffers from shaky sound (inaudible vocals, deafening guitar) but ultimately proves irrepressible as the crowd bellows the refrain, drowning out Noel’s fragile vocal. High notes are missed, pianos are out of key, but absolutely no one cares by the time “Don’t Look Back In Anger” is wheeled out to send everyone home happy. Something his brother Liam entirely failed to do. [3.5/5.0] 

How does he do it? Three hours a night in his 60s? Bruce Springsteen & The E Street are a legitimate phenomenon. The Boss bounds on stage, and from the rousing chords of “Badlands” to the harrowing harmonica of “The River”, he throws his entire being into each and every song. The characterization is sensational. Whether he’s coordinating a gospel choir (“City Of Ruins”), inciting a riot (“Wrecking Ball”), being the world’s biggest children’s entertainer (“Waiting On A Sunny Day”), or playing the working class anti-hero (“Atlantic City”) Springsteen wrenches every last demented bead of sweat from his body to bring these distant narrators to life.

The crowd is keenly split between those going utterly bananas at the front, and those at the back, who pick and choose their favourites. Some have come to jig and shimmy to the marching beats and folk jaunts of Wrecking Ball, others to wave their hands and stomp their feet to the jittery “Working On A Highway” and the triumphant “Out In The Street”. The three-hour set is built around a series of peaks and valleys. The Boss builds you up (“No Surrender”), and he tears you down (“Jack Of All Trades”), but with each swell he engages a greater swathe of the audience, culminating in one glorious finale.

“Land Of Hope And Dreams” is the crowd’s last chance for mournful reflection, as E Street Band suddenly kicks into an improbably sixth gear. “Born In The USA”, “Born To Run”, and “Dancing In The Dark” are truly incendiary. The entire crowd collectively looses their shit, and in a wonderfully charming moment Bruce pulls a little girl from the crowd and dances with her on stage, she even puts a kitty cat hat on his sweaty bonce. It should be cheesy and unbearable, but Springsteen is so earnest, and gives so much of himself, that it never feels forced. He’s having a whale of a time and so is everyone else.

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” coyly plays tribute to the dearly departed Clarence Clemons, as the crowd catches their breath for one last firework assisted explosion. The Isley Brothers’ “Twist And Shout” has everyone screaming and proves an endearing concession to a crowd who have stuck with The Boss through some very unfamiliar territory.

The set is sensational, picking a highlight is next to impossible, but there was one moment that transcended Springsteen’s own lofty live standards. “Because The Night”, the song Bruce gave to Patti Smith during the Darkness On The Edge Of Town sessions, sends a cool chill down the spine. Emerging at the halfway point, it signals the start of an incredible spectacle, bringing a disparate crowd together. The sing along is sublime, but the solo is something else: vicious, snarling, wild, unkempt, spell binding, and utterly unexpected. Proof that sometimes; even the most quantifiable of known entities can take you entirely by surprise. [5.0/5.0]

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Author: david

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